What You Get: Top 10 Myths Of Being A Food Writer
Nobody wants to hear food writers complain about their jobs, and rightly so. But given the recent experience of WFAEats contributor Tamra Wilson -- more about that later -- this is a good time to bust some myths about what food writers actually get to do.
10. You get to eat all day. Food writers spend most of our time reading, researching, planning, interviewing sources, driving, note-taking, transcribing, following up -- and most of that before the actual writing begins. Eating is only one part of the job, and rarely the biggest.
9. You get to cook all day. See above.
8. You get to visit all the hot and trendy restaurants, then critique them. Many food writers (including this one) rarely write about restaurants. Criticism is only one aspect of food writing, and requires a highly sharpened skill set.
7. You get a big pile of free stuff everywhere you go. The Society of Professional Journalists has a code of ethics that states: "Refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, and avoid political and other outside activities that may compromise integrity or impartiality, or may damage credibility." We pay for the food we write about. Disclaimer: The Calphalon and OXO folks hooked me up with gear at a conference I attended. Can I use the pans and choppers they gave me? Yes. Can I write about them? No, except under circumstances where I disclose they are a sponsor of my content. The Federal Trade Commission has a say in the issue.
6. You get your ingredients and supplies paid for while you develop your ideas and recipes. Almost never, unless you're an established author or a celebrity.
5. You get treated like a rock star when you go to a restaurant. Famed food writer Ruth Reichl wore disguises to protect her anonymity. Since publicity can make or break a place, when staff learn there's media in the house, they go to Defcon 1.
4. Ditto for bars. A steady stream of your favorite libation? If only.
3. You get to decide what to write about. If your editor assigns you a story about the Chitlin Strut, you'd better brace yourself for the taste.
2. You get access to the tastiest, best quality food everywhere you go. Intrepid food writer Anthony Bourdain has told some colorful stories of experiences that will turn your stomach.
1. You get to write it all off. Don't take your pals out for lavish dinners and try to claim them as business expenses on your tax return.
Now, back to Tammy. She wrote about getting up close and personal with a piece of pasta as big as a Buick, and getting busted by the "noodle police" at a Kraft Foods plant.
Well, the story doesn't end there. She'll tell us what happened in her next piece, coming up soon here at WFAEats: All Things Food and Culture.
Prepare for something truly cheesy.